I miss mixtapes.
I went through some old boxes over the holidays and discovered a stash of cassettes. Most were circa junior high: Book of Love. The Thompson Twins, The Cure, New Order.
Much as I love my New Wave angst music, I’m not sentimentally attached to the tapes and tossed those into a donate pile.
But the few surviving mixtapes I found? No freaking way would I ever ditch those.
There was too much time, effort and emotion that went into making a mix tape. It was like a love letter – does anyone write love letters anymore? – even if you made one for a friend.
I remember agonizing over the play list, the order of the songs, the message they might send. There were rules, like you couldn’t use the same artist twice in a row. It was all very complicated.
It took foreeevvveerrr.
Here’s a gorgeous description of the painstaking completion of a mix tape from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky (who is on Twitter). Charlie has picked a theme – “One Winter” and bunch of songs by artists like The Smiths, The Beatles, Nick Drake, Suzanne Vega, Smashing Pumpkins, U2 and Fleetwood Mac. But he’s decided not to hand color the cover (Another lost aspect of the mix tape – you sometimes decorated the cover. I think I favored collages of letters from magazines).
“I spent all night working on it, and I hope Patrick likes it as much as I do. Especially the second side. I hope it’s the kind of second side that he can listen to whenever he drives alone and feel like he belongs to something whenever he’s sad. I hope it can be that for him.I had an amazing feeling when I finally held the tape in my hand. I just though to myself that in the palm of my hand, there was this one tape that had all of these memories and feelings and great joy and sadness. Right there in the palm of my hand. And I thought about how many peole have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean.”
So, basically, “Perks” is a completely wonderful book that got elevated a few notches just for those sentences.
“High Fidelity” by Nick Hornby is another great book (and movie) that extolls the virtues and rules of the 80s-90s mixtape culture. It’s even mentioned in this Wikipedia entry on the mixtape:
“To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again.”
Is there a modern equivalent of the mixtape? Mix CDs never seemed quite the same, although I love them and have kept many of those along the way too.
I haven’t seen the “Perks” movie yet, but I really hope the mix tape is in there.